Southern Co (SO) Sees Large Decrease in Short Interest

Southern Co (NYSE:SO) was the target of a significant drop in short interest during the month of February. As of February 28th, there was short interest totalling 15,853,332 shares, a drop of 20.7% from the February 15th total of 19,990,082 shares. Approximately 1.5% of the company’s shares are sold short. Based on an average trading volume of 6,597,602 shares, the short-interest ratio is currently 2.4 days.

In other Southern news, EVP Christopher C. Womack sold 18,922 shares of Southern stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, March 7th. The shares were sold at an average price of $50.36, for a total transaction of $952,911.92. Following the transaction, the executive vice president now directly owns 10,165 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $511,909.40. The sale was disclosed in a filing with the SEC, which is available at this link. Also, Director Henry A. Clark III purchased 2,000 shares of Southern stock in a transaction on Tuesday, March 5th. The shares were acquired at an average cost of $50.19 per share, for a total transaction of $100,380.00. Following the completion of the transaction, the director now owns 2,000 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $100,380. The disclosure for this purchase can be found here. Insiders sold 142,864 shares of company stock worth $7,006,193 over the last three months. Corporate insiders own 0.73% of the company’s stock.

Hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the business. Vanguard Group Inc boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 1.7% during the third quarter. Vanguard Group Inc now owns 77,467,557 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $3,377,586,000 after acquiring an additional 1,324,658 shares during the period. BlackRock Inc. boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 4.0% during the fourth quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 67,971,011 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $2,985,286,000 after acquiring an additional 2,593,928 shares during the period. Geode Capital Management LLC boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 10.3% during the fourth quarter. Geode Capital Management LLC now owns 12,763,112 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $559,911,000 after acquiring an additional 1,188,667 shares during the period. Northern Trust Corp boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 6.5% during the fourth quarter. Northern Trust Corp now owns 12,013,453 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $527,630,000 after acquiring an additional 731,642 shares during the period. Finally, Bank of New York Mellon Corp boosted its holdings in shares of Southern by 1.9% during the third quarter. Bank of New York Mellon Corp now owns 10,620,343 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $463,048,000 after acquiring an additional 193,771 shares during the period. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 56.49% of the company’s stock.

SO has been the topic of a number of recent research reports. Zacks Investment Research cut shares of Southern from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research report on Thursday, December 6th. Mizuho reissued a “hold” rating and set a $46.00 target price on shares of Southern in a research report on Tuesday, December 11th. Guggenheim reissued a “hold” rating and set a $44.00 target price on shares of Southern in a research report on Monday, January 7th. Barclays boosted their target price on shares of Southern from $48.00 to $49.00 and gave the stock a “hold” rating in a research report on Monday, November 19th. Finally, SunTrust Banks reissued a “hold” rating and set a $47.00 target price on shares of Southern in a research report on Monday, January 7th. Six investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, ten have assigned a hold rating and two have issued a buy rating to the company’s stock. Southern presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average price target of $47.00.

Shares of NYSE:SO opened at $51.86 on Monday. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.40, a current ratio of 0.67 and a quick ratio of 0.54. The firm has a market capitalization of $53.65 billion, a P/E ratio of 16.89, a P/E/G ratio of 3.79 and a beta of 0.19. Southern has a 12-month low of $42.42 and a 12-month high of $51.95.

Southern (NYSE:SO) last released its earnings results on Wednesday, February 20th. The utilities provider reported $0.25 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.23 by $0.02. Southern had a net margin of 9.54% and a return on equity of 11.39%. The firm had revenue of $5.34 billion during the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $4.88 billion. During the same quarter in the previous year, the firm earned $0.51 earnings per share. The firm’s revenue for the quarter was down 5.2% compared to the same quarter last year. Equities research analysts predict that Southern will post 3.03 earnings per share for the current year.

The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, March 6th. Shareholders of record on Tuesday, February 19th were paid a dividend of $0.60 per share. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, February 15th. This represents a $2.40 annualized dividend and a yield of 4.63%. Southern’s payout ratio is 78.18%.

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About Southern

The Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The company also constructs, acquires, owns, and manages power generation assets, including renewable energy facilities and sells electricity in the wholesale market; and distributes natural gas in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, and Maryland, as well as provides gas marketing services, wholesale gas services, and gas midstream operations.

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